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Changing lanes: Are Americans in their dream career?

Changing Lanes Header Image

Our jobs are a big part of our daily life. After all, most of us spend five out of seven days there. So, we need to choose a career path that makes us happy, motivated and excited for the days ahead. But what if we’re not happy in our jobs, and how do we know if other people are in the same position?

Well, we surveyed workers in the U.S. to determine Americans’ opinions on their careers. Because we wanted to uncover whether people were happy or unhappy at work and find out exactly what their dream career would be.

Read on to find out more information, including the top states that are happy and unhappy at work.

Revealed: Only 7% of Americans are in their dream career

Shockingly, only 7% of Americans surveyed stated they were in their dream career – which is very little. This meant that 93% haven’t yet found their dream job, and are working in careers that don’t wholly interest them. But, what else did we unpick from this data and what deters people from changing careers?

Happiness at work depends on the sector you’re in

It is so important that people are happy at work and in their roles. And as a whole, the career someone is in – presumably – is the one they want to be in. But how happy are Americans in their role at work? Unfortunately, not very. In fact, a fifth of Americans admitted to being unhappy in their current role (19%), compared to 54% who are.

The happiest and unhappiest career sectors

We found the happiest and unhappiest career sectors, which revealed some interesting revelations on the most favoured and unfavoured professions. In fact, those who work in I.T seem to be the happiest in their careers (73%), while those who work in energy and utilities were the unhappiest (42%). It is not surprising, then, that people claimed I.T was one of the top sectors they’d like their dream career in.

Table Showing The Industries With The Happiest and Unhappiest Staff

The sectors with the highest percentages of unhappy workers include:

  • Energy and utilities
  • Public services and administration
  • Law enforcement and security
  • Environment and agriculture
  • Leisure, sport, and tourism
  • Recruitment and HR
  • Business, consulting, and management
  • Law

And the sectors with the highest percentage of happy workers include:

  • Information technology (I.T)
  • Accountancy, banking, and finance
  • Public services and administration
  • Teacher training and education
  • Science and pharmaceuticals
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality and events management
  • Transport and logistics

The top states that are unhappy and happy at work

To really understand where job satisfaction flourished and declined, we asked Americans from different states whether they were unhappy or happy in their current career.

Rhode Island was the state with the highest percentage of unhappy workers across the whole of the U.S. (50%). Whereas 80% of people living in Minnesota are completely happy in their current career. So, job happiness and career satisfaction really can depend on the state you live in!

Table Showing The States With The Most Unhappy Residents

These eight states had the highest percentage of people that are unhappy at work:

1. Rhode Island
2. South Dakota
3. Louisiana
4. South Carolina
5. Indiana
6. Missouri
7. Hawaii
8. Maine

The eight states that have the highest percentage of happy workers included:

1. Minnesota
2. Oklahoma
3. Kentucky
4. Mississippi
5. Oregon
6. West Virginia
7. Wisconsin

Table Showing The States With The Most Happy Residents

So, which industries do Americans want to move to?

As well as the industries that were deemed as the worst in terms of employee happiness, there were many that Americans claimed they actively wanted to move over to.

The top industries people wanted a career in are:

• Creative arts and design
• Healthcare
• Accountancy, banking, and finance
• Business, consulting, and management
• Information technology

The pandemic has impacted how Americans feel about work

It’s down to us what job we get and which career we get into, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re happy with our choice. However, sometimes it can take things happening outside of work for us to realise how unhappy we are in our current role. And the pandemic is one of those factors; it’s made people think twice about their careers. Because when the world is in disarray, we need a job that brings happiness to our day-to-day, not the opposite.

Unfortunately, Americans realised how unhappy they were in their jobs when the pandemic hit, as 77% of people said the pandemic had impacted how they felt about work. The pandemic helped them either realise that life is too short to be unhappy at work, or in some cases, it opened up other work opportunities for them. Perhaps, then, people have put up with the challenges in their current careers because they don’t know any different. And, they haven’t noticed the red flags until something much larger and monumental has happened to make them sit back and assess their overall happiness.

So, what is stopping people from moving to their dream careers?

With so many people across America announcing they are unhappy in their career, why is it that they’ve not decided to take a leap of faith and switch?

Graphic Showing How US Residents Feel about their Career

People become too comfortable

A complete structure change could be underway at work, or a new manager has started that has brought the team morale down and makes employees reconsider their role at the company. However, more often than none, nothing is done, and employees remain working somewhere that’s making them unhappy. In fact, a fifth (20%) of Americans stated that being too comfortable in their current situation is what stops them from making the switch to their dream career.

Not having the experience required

A lack of experience is another ranking factor in why people might not be ready to move to a new role. As, 20% of people overall said that not having the experience needed to pursue their dream career has discouraged them from seeking it out. This was particularly prevalent across the recruitment and HR industry, as 46% of people in this industry – which was the highest number across all sectors – stated a lack of experience would stop them from changing careers.

Although, people can obtain the experience they need to branch out and chase their dreams. So, perhaps confidence plays a key part? After all, 15% of people claimed it was their lack of confidence that stopped them from switching careers!

Clearly, then, American job satisfaction differs by state and job sector, and dream careers haven’t been achieved yet because of job comfortability and a lack of confidence. Although, the pandemic has made people realise their current job isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. So, it’s not to say that getting their dream job is totally out of reach.

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